This episode had everything going for it: action, dilemmas, emergencies, courage, shock, defiance and love. Hospitals. Heroin dens. Hidden agendas. Hook ups. By the time the episode came to an end, I immediately watched it again, in case I missed out on any small details. In the beginning, we see where Thackeray got the inspiration for shooting himself with heroin before a procedure – his mentor would do it. How ethical.
Blatant disregard for racial equality is the starting point to the episode. A patient – a policeman named Sears (who in my opinion was a real JERK) got stabbed and was rushed to the Knick. Sears attempted to solicit a beautiful African American female, as he thought she was a prostitute. Turns out she wasn’t; she was waiting for her beau. You can tell that her beau doesn’t take too kindly to the insult and a fight breaks out. Sears is stabbed several times. He did call the other man a very terrible racial slur, I might add. The couple run for safety as other men come rushing to Sears’ aid.
Unfortunately for the staff at the Knick, Sears has an equally idiotic mother, who is a complete foul mouthed drunk, to boot. As Thackeray and Algenon attempt to operate on the man, with Bertie assisting, the mother is out in the lobby, cursing and swearing, drinking away. We also see that Sears has a wife, several children and the wife is heavily pregnant. As the staff try to speak with the mother, she starts spouting off that it’s all the African American man’s fault and she wants revenge. This woman has no class and no common sense. A crowd of unruly men wait outside the Knick for news about Sears. Our man Cleary goes out and tells them to go home, as the operation was performed and that it could be days before they get word on how the patient is. This is all for naught; Sears dies. Mommy dearest is led outside, where she proceeds to spout off more racial slurs and stirs the temperamental pot of discord. She whips all her late son’s friends into a fury and before you know it, any African American walking along on the street is brutally beaten. It gets to a point where riots break out left, right and center. The staff at the Knick tries everything in their power to stop the rioting. Thackeray and company angrily tell the mob to stop their madness. That doesn’t go over so well. Patients begin pouring inside the Knick (through Algenon’s backdoor clinic). It was awful to watch this senseless violence.
It is at this opportune time that Gallinger makes his return back to the Knick. Boy, did he ever get lambasted. First, he’s upset to find that Thackeray and Edwards are operating together (oh, the horror!) and secondly, he finds that not only Thackeray has faith in the man, but Bertie totally shuts Gallinger down by praising Edwards’ suction vacuum equipment. Gallinger is angry and spiteful – but Thackeray makes it VERY clear that he has NO time for temper tantrums, given the stressful situation going on outside and inside the Knick. But wait! The plot gets better! We see some pretty awesome actions from some of our beloved characters from the Knick.
Cleary and another ambulance driver are manning the door, trying to keep the hospital secure. The angry mob breaks through. People spill into the hospital, breaking things, yelling and going crazy. Any African American patients are not safe and are immediately removed to Edward’s medical clinic downstairs. What other choice did they have? As the mob begins to run riot in the hospital, Barrow makes a point to try and assert his authority and is totally shut down in the process. Good. He’s an idiot who needed to be put in his place. The man decides, halfway through the episode, to go to the brothel to check on his prostitute girlfriend. How thoughtful.
Thackeray, Edwards, Nurse Elkins and Cornelia know that things are going to escalate and they must be able to transport the African American patients to a friendly clinic. Showing some stealth, they cover all the patients and divide and conquer. Thackeray, Elkins, Cornelia and Cleary go with one large group – with Cleary towing the ambulance cart, no less – to the other clinic down the street. Elkins is cool under fire when they get stopped. She lies and says that they have a bunch of leprosy patients that they are taking to the morgue and bluntly says to the man attempting to stop them all that if he gets too close to these patients, well, a certain body part of his will fall right off. Elkins: 10. Idiot mob member: 0.
Meanwhile, Sister Harriet – or should I call her the female version of Dirty Harry – shows fire and brimstone – forcing her way downtown with a load of patients, all the while making damn sure she is the woman on top. She brooks NO insolence or disrespect while out on the streets, yelling and waving that cross, while promising the fires of hell and Satan, should any mob member dare to cross her path.
It takes an entire day and night to restore some sort of order to the downtown scene where the rioting took place. All doctors and nurses at the Knick are doing what they can, repairing equipment, treating people and trying to cope with the days’ events. At an African American clinic downtown, Edwards and Thackeray do what they can and assist the head doctor, Moses, and the rest of the patients. Thackeray even gives a personal stash of his heroin to Edwards, when a patient requires sedation. Thackeray didn’t even bat an eye in doing so. What I found interesting was the fact that Cornelia stayed with everyone during this precarious situation. She almost seemed to thrive in that kind of environment – not the riot itself, because that was horrendous. She seemed to be able to adapt and cope very well in assisting patients, doctors and nurses. Nurse Elkins assisted Thackeray during all his operations. Clearly, you could see everyone was tired and bone weary.
It was what happened next that really must have got viewers completely bowled over. I had sensed a tiny frisson of flirtation between Doctor Thackeray and Nurse Elkins for a while. What I had not guessed what that Cornelia would end up in the embrace of her childhood friend, Doctor Algenon Edwards. The four of them are seen returning back to the Knick, when Thackeray insists on escorting Elkins home. Cornelia and Algenon end up back at his medical clinic and how convenient, where nobody is around to see them. What happens next is that they both succumb to their passions. This is extremely dicey for both people involved. For Algenon, he could be seen as taking advantage of a white woman and his benefactor’s daughter. He could lose his medical license and job, for another. Oh yes, and the fact that he is African American is huge. It is the year 1900, not 2014. Cornelia, for her part, is playing with fire. She not only gambles with her reputation, but her family’s, as well. The scandal that this has the potential to turn into is scary. I don’t even want to think about what could happen to them both down the road…
Elkins invites Thackeray into her boarding room. It’s dark. She lights a candle. The darkness almost seems to cloak what’s about to happen between the two. As Thackeray is experienced in the ways of women, Elkins is innocent in what goes on between a man and woman. “I can make it painless and perfect,” replies Thackeray, as he undoes her corset. Enhancing her first sexual experience with drugs is very taboo; then again, we know that Thackeray likes to live dangerously. Come the morning, Elkins is seen dressing, brushing her hair and having a coffee. We see her staring into the mirror. Then, she smiles. Did she enjoy being with Thackeray? Did she regret it? As her roommate comes back, Elkins looks at her and starts to laugh. Her roommate notices the odd look on her face.
What will this mean for Thackeray’s and Elkins’ working relationship? What about good old Bertie; does he have a chance with her now? Will Gallinger continue to press for favour and make an attempt to oust Edwards? Will Cornelia end up getting married? Or will she break it off, in favour of making her own path? Will Algenon be able to maintain a professional relationship with Cornelia from now on?